CDC warns of unseasonal increase in RSV cases across southern U.S.

Health

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory after seeing an increase in Respiratory Syncytial Virus, more commonly known as RSV, across the southern United States.

“Due to reduced circulation of RSV during the winter months of 2020–2021, older infants and toddlers might now be at increased risk of severe RSV-associated illness since they have likely not had typical levels of exposure to RSV during the past 15 months,” a release from the CDC said.

Doctors across Tampa Bay say RSV typically spreads in the winter months, like the common cold. However, they have been seeing an increase in cases in the last few months, as temperatures warm, which is unusual.

“It is the predominant thing we are seeing in the emergency department right now,” said Dr. Joseph Perno, the chief medical officer for John’s Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Over at AdventHealth in Tampa, Dr. Sara Kirby said they have been seeing the same thing.

“I think it started in the beginning of April, we started seeing more than we usually see of it and we are still seeing it in June which is a little bit weird as well,” said Kirby, an AdventHealth ER doctor.

While symptoms for older children and adults can include things like coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fatigue, headache, and fever, this virus can be harmful to younger children, especially infants. Older adults are also at risk of severe disease.

“Especially those who are a month or 2 of age, but even up to 6 months are the ones we watch a little more carefully with this virus because they are not strong enough to fight it off like older kids,” Kirby added.

There is no specific treatment for the virus. Both doctors say symptoms on average last about a week or two. They encourage everyone to continue hygiene practices like washing their hands often because this virus can spread very easily.  

RSV is primarily spread via droplets from a cough or sneeze and through direct contact with a contaminated surface, according to the CDC. On average, RSV leads to 58,000 hospitalizations and 100-500 deaths among children younger than 5 in the U.S. For people 65 and older, that number is substantially higher – 177,000 hospitalizations with 14,000 deaths.

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